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According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 360 children is diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. And it is a condition most of them carry into adulthood.
A common misconception about Tourette’s is that those who have it swear or blurt out inappropriate words uncontrollably and randomly, as that is how the media portrays the neurodevelopmental disorder. In reality, that is just one symptom of Tourette’s, which is called coprolalia. In fact, only five to ten percent of people with Tourette’s suffer from it.
Tourette’s is actually characterized by a variety of involuntary tics – motor, vocal, or both. Some of these actions include hopping, snapping, facial tics, and even dancing. It is described as an itch that can’t be scratched or an urge to do something that cannot be stopped.
Even so, living with people who have Tourette’s is typically not that difficult, especially if they do not suffer from other forms of mental disorders.
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The most important thing to do is to avoid “fixing” them and their tics, even if the desire to do so is borne of good intent. That responsibility falls on medical professionals; what people with Tourette’s need is support and acceptance from their loved ones. This way, the road to self-acceptance becomes smoother.
It also helps to offer physical reassurance, as it has scientifically been proven that stress, which would aggravate the condition, can be calmed by physical touch from a trustworthy companion.
Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a New York-based general and child and adolescent psychiatrist. He is a clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, NY, while also maintaining a private practice in Manhattan. To read more about the subject, visit this website.